For about the first year to eighteen months of my time on Instagram, I didn’t really use hashtags. I felt they were a bit attention seeking, looked messy and were fairly pointless. I was wrong.
Hashtags by their very nature are a way of grouping similar images together. They are attention seeking, they’re saying “Look at me, my photo is about this topic too“. Hashtags are a way of introducing your images to a new audience, to people who might not necessarily already be following you.
Some people choose not to use hashtags and are very successful – @MummyDaddyMe being a case in point – she hardly ever uses hashtags but has way more followers and likes than I do . . . but generally I think they do the job of getting your images seen so here’s my top tips for using hashtags on instagram:
Research your hashtags
Of course it’s can be quite funny to write a load of really random hashtags and @BrummyMummyof2 does a great job of this. But for the most part you need to use hashtags that people are already using. The best way of finding out which hashtags to use is by looking at images which are similar in style or theme to the one you want to post and seeing which hashtags other people are using. When you click on a hashtag on your phone it will show you all the photos which have been tagged with it but also, across the top, a list of similar hashtags. This is a great way of finding new, related hashtags. Make sure your hashtags are genuinely relevant to the picture you’re posting, ‘clickbait’ behaviour doesn’t translate any better to hashtags than it does anywhere else so tagging your pictures with #instagood or any other random hashtag that doesn’t suit your picture just because it’s a popular hashtag isn’t going to benefit you!
Whilst I’ve just mentioned that you want to use hashtags that people are already using, by the same token if you use ones which too popular you might well find you don’t pick up all that much interaction as your picture very quickly gets lost in that particular hashtag stream, sometimes smaller, active ‘community’ hashtags are more effective.
Vary your hashtags
Don’t just copy and paste the hashtags used by your favourite Instagrammer – for a start they might not all be relevant (I use the hashtag #MummyandBo regularly for pictures of Amy so it wouldn’t make sense for anyone else to use that one!). Furthermore, if you’re all using the same hashtags then people are only ever going to be seeing the same photos – it can be really frustrating when you’re browsing hashtags to see the same pictures popping up over and over again. Mix it up. Find new ones!
Join in with communities
I mentioned this in my post about Building a Following on Instagram – but it’s really important to treat Instagram as a social media. Interact with people and they will interact with you. Use your hashtags to find people who are posting photos in a similar theme to your own and interact with them. There are some gorgeous Instagram communities such as @SoGoodInEveryway which has a weekly themed hashtag or the likes of #DevelopingLife, #LifeCloseUp or #LittleFierceOnes who will regularly choose their favourite images to repost thus sharing them with a new, wider audience.
Interact with your hashtags
This links back to joining in with communities. Once I’ve posted an image, I will go through a couple of the hashtags I’ve used liking and commenting on some of the other pictures featuring the same hashtag. As well as letting Instagram know what sort of picture I’m interested in so it can show me more of them, it also helps build that sense of community and encourages other people to pop back and look at your photo. This is far more effective than just liking loads of random images because checking out the images using the same hashtags as you means you’re more likely to find people in the same “niche”.
Keep your favourite hashtags in your notes
This is a bit of a geeky organisational tip but it really does make such a difference. To get the most out of your hashtags it’s important to add them to your image as soon as possible. If you wait till later to add them they will only show in the hashtag stream at whatever point you posted the original photo. I have groups of (regularly researched and updated) themed hashtags stored in Google Keep on my phone (though I believe it’s possible to set up shortcut keys on your phone) which means I can quickly find them to copy & paste into a comment (obviously editing out any which aren’t relevant or adding in a more specific one). It also means I don’t have to worry about trying to rem member my favourite hashtags – they’re all there waiting for me. (Next week’s post will be about the hashtags I use!)
Use all thirty
Instagram allows you to use up to thirty hashtags per image and personally I think you might as well make the most of this! Some people will post all their hashtags into their photo caption (often using a run of full stops on new lines to break this up from their caption) others prefer to add their hashtags into their comments. In part this depends how you post your images to instagram – if you’re pre-writing and scheduling or saving as a draft (a new feature on instagram) then you will need to put them into your caption to make sure they’re there as soon as you publish. If, like me, you post live then you can put them in your comments as soon as you’ve posted. At the end of the day I don’t think it really makes that much difference, it’s all just personal preference.
Watch our for my Instagram Tips post on Which Hashtags to Use for Instagram next Thursday.